The Ministry of Agriculture Forestry (MAF) has engaged the parliamentary committee members on agriculture at its conference hall on Friday 10th July 2020, where the Members of Parliament (MP) were adequately briefed and given highlights on the ministry’s key successes and challenges. The Minister of Agriculture, Dennis K. Vandy informed MPs that 180 tractors were available and ready to boost the sector as part of the Quick Action Economic Response Program (QAERP) for farmers, stating 120 of the tractors are 35 horsepower with the remaining tractors 75 horsepower.
Min. Vandy further revealed that the first set of tractors will shortly be cleared at the Quay, pointing that the ministry is planning to introduce a different approach towards procurement, usage and management of its machines. The minister said they are piloting the tractor system this time around using the service provider concept by bringing in the private sector to manage the maintenance and distribution aspect to serve farmers, adding this will not disadvantage any farmer because the system will not serve individual interest.
He said many procurement models had not succeeded in the country because most of them focused on the highest purchase model, but that with the QAERP model they are hopeful of success. The Agriculture Minister announced that in order to mitigate food shortage during the COVID-19 pandemic, under QAERP the MAFFS supported smallholder farmers to acquire and prepare land and inputs, saying QAERP made it easy to identify beneficiaries under limited time.
Although food production in 2020 is a bit chaotic, the minister was optimistic about next year, especially after they had requested for more hectares of land for agricultural activities in Torma Bum, Port Loko, Tonkolili, Moyamba, Pujehun, Kambia districts among others. Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture chair Sallieu O. Sesay said he was satisfied with the ministry’s performance, including the bold step of inviting them for the updates on its activities. “We wish this meeting could have taken place before the just concluded Presidential Debate; this would have given us enough weapons as a committee to trumpet the activities of the ministry.”
The committee chairman promised to do justice to the ministry’s requests. He said if the country is to diversify, agriculture must take center stage, and carrying out the presentation made to them by the ministry would take the country to another level. He confessed that he was shocked to hear from the minister that the Forestry Division may end up under the Ministry of Environment, and assured of leading the fight on behalf of the Ministry to advise government on her alleged action.
He closed by advising the ministry that the tractors should remain government property and not privatized by the beneficiaries.
By Mohamed Kabba